Friday, August 03, 2007

Boston Theatre Blogging Getting Bigger, So Is Citi's Pockets

Bill Marx, (Former WBUR Critic,) is back blogging. And on a post at ArtsFuse, he discusses the recent articles regarding Josiah Spaulding's salary, but also links to an MSN article about a new program afoot at Citi Performing Arts Center (CPAC). Marx is wary:

But there are more ominous signs that the CPAC is about incubating
marketing techniques rather than funding the arts. On July 20,
MSN reported that CPAC is collecting money for a "visionary" venture. More cultural productions? You must be kidding…

Citi Peforming Arts Center is implementing a new seven-year strategic plan that calls for a new business model it hopes will become a national model for other cities, Citi senior management said Friday.

Under the new plan, the Boston-based organization, formerly known as The Wang Center for the Performing Arts, will focus on new technology and interactive and educational programming to bring the arts into the community.

The plan, which Citi management calls visionary, is a multimillion-dollar undertaking that includes setting up video screens in Boston Common that display ongoing live performances, providing kiosks for people to sign up for classes and purchasing theater tickets via cell phone.

"The market has told us we had to do this," said
Nancy Sullivan Skinner, recently brought on as the organization's new chief development officer. "The industry has undergone significant changes in recent years and the traditional operating business model that the former Wang Center was operating under was no longer sustainable."

The plan also calls for a shift in earned income to a greater focus on fund raising, said Skinner.

Citi Performing Arts Center heads said it will also continue
renting out the Wang Theater and other venues to increase earned income, and leverage internal expertise to offer theater management services.

The organization said it will look for strategic partners and sponsors to help implement the plan. It has about $1 million in funds so far.

Let me get this straight. This "visionary" program, inspired by the
command of the market, amounts to setting up screens in the Boston Common, putting up kiosks so people can sign up for classes, and developing ways to order tickets via cell phones. At this point, CPAC has collected about a $1 million. It takes all that money to do that? Those screens must be gold-plated. And isn't showing people "ongoing live" performances on screen contradictory? We want to get audiences away from their TVs. Why not also come up with a system where people can sign up for classes using cell phones? No doubt that prophetic idea will spawn another million dollar program. At the CPAC, fundraising is the name of the game — the arts are the window dressing to get the suckers into the tent.

Those outraged by Spaulding's obscene bonus, and perplexed that a
purported nonprofit arts organization is acting like a corporate greed machine, should keep a close eye on this scheme.


Ian Thal said...

Thanks both for continuing to follow the Citi Center funding story and for alerting us that Bill Marx is back in the blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

So let me ge this straight. The Citi Center wants to destroy beautiful summer nights under the stars during their Shakespeare in the Park with huge Jumbo Trons. Just give us back the 2 extra weeks Spaulding stole and we can do without the corporate circus. Why buld Kiosks when you can use the internet or a cell phone to sign up for classes or even take classes now. I think the "visionaries" at the Citi Center need to move on and bring in new vision. Will they rename their center the Citi Center for the Visionary Arts because Performing Arts will be misleading to some.

Art said...

Hi Anon,

I am not sure the plan is to put up screens for the Shakespeare performances. It sounds as if this would be an ongoing thing, under the auspices of outreach or something like that.

I read the article and then looked quickly at the CPAC Website, but couldn't find anything about the new initiative there.

Thomas Garvey said...

I agree that the ideas floated so far are godawful (and grope painfully after some equivalent of the Met's successful pop ventures). Still, the Wang/Citi has to do SOMETHING, doesn't it? Clearly with bookings falling maintaining the theatre won't be viable over the long term.